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Trucker convicted of causing grandfather's death by dangerous driving

Rhys Gardiner admits that his carelessness behind the wheel of a HGV led to the death of Tim Harkness. Credit: Cumbria Police

An HGV driver has been told he should be prepared for a prison sentence after being convicted of causing the death of a Carlisle grandfather by dangerous driving.

Rhys Gardiner, 24, had been on trial at the city’s crown court following a tragic crash on the A66 between Penrith and Appleby which claimed the life of 72-year-old Tim Harkness.

Gardiner admitted causing Mr Harkness’s death by careless driving, but denied that his conduct behind the wheel was dangerous.

Dash cam footage from the cab of Gardiner’s Mercedes vehicle captured it crossing the central white line of the A66 briefly, close to Kirkby Thore in darkness just after 5:40am on Tuesday, 3rd April, 2018.

It then drifted left and partially off the carriageway for more than 100 metres without changing course before rejoining the A66. It crossed on to the wrong side of the road and collided with an oncoming Renault lorry driven by Mr Harkness, who died.

The prosecution alleged Gardiner “fell asleep at the wheel” moments before the tragedy. He’d send a text to his girlfriend at 2:32am - an hour before he started his fateful journey - which read: “Tired lol.”

A police collision investigator concluded, in his opinion, that “the explanation that fits with all the evidence is that he has fallen asleep”.

Tim Harkness Credit: Family photo

Gardiner, however, denied that was the case and insisted from the court witness box he was awake the whole time.

But a jury which heard all evidence in the case convicted Gardiner, unanimously, of causing Mr Harkness’s death by dangerous driving after deliberating for less than an hour today.

Recorder Eric Lamb adjourned the case for a pre-sentence report, imposed an interim driving ban and granted unconditional bail to Gardiner, of Old Hall Road, Bentley, near Doncaster, who wept in the court dock when the verdict was announced. He is due to be sentenced on March 16.

“The court is giving you no indication of what the ultimate sentence will be,” Recorder Lamb told him, adding: “You must be prepared for a custodial sentence on the next occasion.”